Why this company pays to train its employees' dogs

Businesses with happy workers outperform their competitors, so this tech firm has created a pet-friendly work environment

By Brian McLaughlin

Jan 26, 2018 @ 2:32 pm EST

Making sure your organization has a distinct culture that both seeks and values contributions from employees is one of the most important things you can do when building and growing a business. As Harvard Business Review author Rob Markey states, "Loyal, passionate employees bring a company as much benefit as loyal, passionate customers. They stay longer, work harder, work more creatively and find ways to go the extra mile. They bring you more great employees. And that spreads even more happiness — happiness for employees, for customers, and for shareholders."

It's proven that companies with happy employees outperform their competitors by 20% and experience less than 14% job turnover, compared to companies with poor culture that experience almost 50% turnover. Happy workers are generally 12% more productive than the average worker, while unhappy employees are typically 10% less productive.

Building a Solid Company Culture

Follow these three steps to implement an awesome culture in your firm.

1. Decide what's important. First, think about what's important to you. Part of what makes a successful company culture is coming at it from an authentic place.

My company was named after my dog, and we have made it our mission to give back to dogs in the community. We've created a dog-friendly work environment, pay to train employees' dogs, and recently partnered with a local animal shelter to foster dogs. The dog-centric framing of our company culture is a great jumping off point for many of the other things we value, such as loyalty, high energy and great companionship. Our culture informs everything we do.

2. Create a plan. Your company culture starts with a mission statement in which you define the company's values. These should accurately describe the aims and ideals of your organization and be used to attract like-minded individuals. Your mission statement should be plastered everywhere, so it becomes a recognizable part of your firm's identity.

You must also prioritize planning your culture in the same way you'd prioritize an annual budget or marketing campaign. Whether you offer paid continuing education, parental leave (beyond what's required by law), or pawternity leave (for those with new pets), it's definitely a best practice to determine how long an employee must be with the company before taking advantage. While some perks might be automatic upon hire, others may only accrue after years of service. We've found a mix is best; welcome new employees with perks they may not find elsewhere to show they're valued, but hold some out as well as a way of rewarding longer-term employees.

Ongoing communication about company values will reinforce your commitment to employees and, over time, become a part of the company DNA, engendering further team buy-in, commitment and cohesiveness as you work toward common goals.

3. Measure employee engagement. Culture should never be stagnant. You should continuously measure how happy your employees are and make changes when necessary. One way to measure employee satisfaction and gauge sentiment is by collecting feedback through survey platforms like TINYpulse or MoodApp. Consider having regular one-on-ones with employees or hosting company outings or retreats. Your company size and circumstances will help determine which methods are best for measuring employee engagement. The method(s) you settle upon aren't nearly as important as finding some way to measure engagement, and ensuring that your employees recognize you're interested in their well-being and actively seeking ways to improve.

Company Culture Is Contagious

Having a great company culture keeps employees engaged and can encourage new innovations. Redtail's culture has bred an internal newsletter, The Red Waggin', and a yearbook, among other ideas that help to further convey those original values, while also instilling in our employees that they're all part of the same squad. Our annual team-building weekend also accomplishes this while simultaneously giving us the opportunity to enjoy one another's company.

When an employee feels happy and appreciated, anything is possible. Bu, it's up to you to listen to your employees and create a place that people like coming to everyday. You set the tone, and they will spread your message in ways that will grow your business, attract future employees and deepen relationships with clients.

Brian McLaughlin is CEO of Redtail Technology.

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